Denis talks to top cops on protests, blockades

EDMONTON — Police forces won’t be told how to handle aboriginal protests, but Alberta’s solicitor general said Wednesday he’s made sure law enforcement officials understand how unhappy a lot of people are with Idle No More highway blockades.

EDMONTON — Police forces won’t be told how to handle aboriginal protests, but Alberta’s solicitor general said Wednesday he’s made sure law enforcement officials understand how unhappy a lot of people are with Idle No More highway blockades.

“I would say in more than nine out of ten cases, people are very frustrated,” said Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. “People are very concerned for public safety, as am I.”

Denis said he has spoken by phone to the police chiefs of Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the head of the RCMP in Alberta.

“In no way do we expect to direct the police,” said Denis. “We respect the police’s independence.”

But he added he has received more than 200 calls from Albertans expressing anger that protesters were able to slow traffic last week on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, the main route between the two major cities.

“There’s not been one person who has suggested we should not respect a person’s democratic right to peaceful protest,” said Denis. “But the overlying sentiment is that blockading a public roadway is going too far.”

Denis told the police chiefs that the province may be willing to provide more resources to deal with such protests in the future.

“I want to keep an open line of communication at all times when there’s situations like this that involve public safety,” he said. “We’ve had a good relationship in the past couple of years.”

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